“Soviet style elections” — Ben Austin in response to parents and communities choosing community school plans over corporate charters.

Report Green Dot's Ben Austin on the City Ethics Commission Complaint Form OnlineThe Washington Post’s Jay Matthews is a education columnist, who with absolutely no sense of irony, maintains a blog entitled “Class Struggle.” I mention the irony since Matthews is a pro-charter-voucher corporatist, who has never seen an Arne “Katrina Schadenfreude” Duncan proposal he didn’t like, freely quotes right wing think tanks like the Brookings Institution, loves corporate CMO charter schools, and cheerleads standardized testing.

That said, even right wingers like Matthews see the absurdity of Ben Austin’s “Corporate Trigger” (often misleadingly referred to as a parent trigger) language that became California law as part of the so called Race to the Top (another misnomer) legislation championed by reactionary State Senator Gloria Romero. Turns out Austin (an attorney) and some other lawyers Austin knows were actually allowed by Romero’s staff to draft the language and add it to Romero’s already regressive SBX5 1 bill. People close to the Romero campaign leaked that little tidbit, as part of their disdain for some of her funders.

In a piece entitled Down with parent power Jay Matthews points out a few of the problems with the “Corporate Trigger” language that lets billionaire bankrolled 501c3 organizations collect signatures of parents in the attendance boundary of schools victimized by NCLB’s punitive provisions. Immediately one of the so called Parent Revolution’s haughty executives, Gabe Rose, began debating his fellow right winger Matthews over the merits of legislation that only makes it easier for corporate charters to take over public schools. This debate is discussed on Matthews’ blog post, and it saw responses on the LAPU/PR blog as well. It should also be mentioned that the bastion of reactionary right wing propaganda — Fox “News” featured Ben Austin’s so called “parent” trigger in a gushing anti-labor segment on television.

Under Jay Matthews’ article, several comments from journalists Sharon Higgens and Caroline Grannan shed some light on the true nature of Ben Austin, Gabe Rose, Shirley Ford, and the so called “Parent Revolution.” In the interest of even wider exposure of facts, I sent an open letter to Mr. Matthews so that he would have a deeper understanding of the corporate trigger advocates and their organization.

Here is that letter:

On Green Dot’s Parent Revolution (née Los Angeles Parents Union)

Mr. Matthews:

I’ve noticed the right of center staffers of Parent Revolution (née Los Angeles Parents Union) have spent quite bit of time trying to win you over with their sheer verbosity and mendacity. Recently Parent Revolution has been trying to give themselves a “makeover” of sorts, and some of the things they’ve been trying to convince you of are part of that damage control they’re engaging in.

Lest Mr. Austin and Mr. Rose trick you into thinking their little billionaire backed 501c3 was an invention of their own, you might want to check out the abundance of information on Green Dot Public [sic] Schools’ LAPU/Parent Revolution (henceforth LAPU/PR). I’ve taken the liberty to provide you with a modicum of that information.

For more on the origins of LAPU/PR see:

On Parent Revolution (née LAPU) Pretending to Distance Themselves from Green Dot

LAPU/PR was started by Steve Barr and Ryan Smith with funding from Reed Hastings, Eli Broad, and the Annenberg Foundation. They recruited wealthy Bel Air resident Bill Grundfest (of Mad About You TV fame) to pose as the face of the “angry parents” that weren’t going to stand for public schools — and most of all, public sector unions — any more. As the article points out, LAPU/PR now serves the interests of several CMO corporate charters, not just Green Dot alone.

I can’t think of a single instance when LAPU/PR has taken any action in our city for any education issue that didn’t involve corporate charters. I’ve been a social justice writer, a public education advocate, and an immigrant rights activist for well over a decade, and haven’t seen a single one of these CMO executives ever do anything outside of their financial interests since I’ve been covering these issues. The above article links to the infamous “Annenberg Document” which proves unequivocally who founded LAPU/PR. That document is also available here:

Green Dot Public Schools & Los Angeles Parents Union

Of course ideologically charged billionaires and their foundations, The Broad Foundation, The Gates Foundation, and the Walton Foundation now provide the vast majority of LAPUs funding.

The “Parent Trigger” and its connections to the phony LA Parents Union, Green Dot, Steve Barr, and Eli Broad

Ben Austin, former Republican Deputy Mayor, and city employee has some serious baggage including an open case with the Los Angeles City Ethics Commission (City Ethics Case # 2010-36). Here are a few pieces dealing with whom many social justice advocates call “The Beverly Hills Barrister:”

There’s much more, but I don’t want to overwhelm you with mountains of information.

First Green Dot, and now LAPU pay Mr. Austin a great deal of money to pursue privatization of public schools. A few minutes scanning Green Dot’s and LAPU’s 990 forms on GuideStar (http://www2.guidestar.org/) will verify everything I’m saying about his “compensation.” From what I understand Gabe “union buster” Rose is well paid too, but he doesn’t appear in the 990s. That’s another downside to CMO charter schools, and their proxy organizations, they aren’t subject to the public records act, hence they aren’t subject to public scrutiny.

While I’m discussing the shadier side of LAPU/PR, I may as well bring up what can only be called “questionable” tactics. In fact several journalists including Caroline Grannan, Rachel Heller, and myself, have questioned Ben Austin’s seeming class and ethnic biases in picking the schools he considers “failing.” There are many articles available discussing this darker side of Austin and his organization’s unsavory operations, here are three:

Given LAPU/PRs close ties to the CCSA, there are some real questions about their relations to CCSA Steve Poizner, whose recent CPAC speech has the immigrant rights community up in arms.

Racist Anti-Immigrant Speech from California Charter School Association’s Steve Poizner

I think the foregoing will probably give you a better basis to know who you are dealing with when debating with people that have no business discussing education policies. If you would like more information, or if I can be of further help, please let me know.

Advocating Public Education

Robert D. Skeels